Democratic White House challenger John Kerry accused President Bush on Tuesday of a “breach of faith” by taking unilateral action in Iraq and promised to build more international support for reconstruction.
Kerry, on a week-long tour of college campuses to rally young voters, told a town hall meeting in Providence that Bush had promised to build foreign support for the war in Iraq but “the way the president went about this was more than a mistake ... the president broke promises.”
“It was a breach of faith with the American people,” said Kerry, who is locked in a tight race with Bush seven months before the November election as the president’s handling of the war has become a major campaign issue.
The Massachusetts senator voted to authorize the war in October 2002 but has since voted against a bill to pay for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
On the campaign trail he has been trying to walk a line between criticizing Bush’s conduct of the war without appearing to be trying to make political gain from the unrest in Iraq.
In an article written for the Washington Post op-ed page, Kerry said the United Nations must become a full partner in the Iraqi transition to a new government and called for more international help, possibly from NATO, in making the country safer.
“The primary responsibility for security must remain with the U.S. military, preferably helped by NATO until we have an Iraqi security force fully prepared to take responsibility,” he wrote.
Kerry pushes education plans
Kerry spent most of Tuesday’s town hall session and an earlier round-table stressing his plans to make college more affordable.
Kerry accused Bush and his economic policies of keeping 220,000 Americans from attending college in the last three years because of rising tuition.
He said increasing college costs were limiting the educational opportunities of Americans and adding to a plummeting living standard already hurt by rising health care costs and gas prices.
“People are having a lot harder time having the fundamentals covered,” Kerry told a round-table session with nine local educators and students at the University of Rhode Island’s downtown Providence campus.
During the round-table and a later town hall meeting with students and residents, Kerry pledged to introduce a $4,000 a year tuition tax credit to defray college costs and to institute a tuition payment plan for students who promise to work in the community for two years after college.
“We need to make it possible for families to again be able to send their kids to school without breaking the bank,” Kerry said, promising to pay for the programs by repealing tax cuts for Americans making more than $200,000 a year.
He said his programs would help counteract an average 28 percent increase in college tuitions since 2001, when Bush took office.
Kerry said rapidly rising college costs have been fueled by state budget difficulties and he accused Bush of reneging on past promises to support scholarship increases and opposing aid to state governments to keep tuition costs stable.
Average tuition and fees at public four-year colleges increased from $3,487 in 2000-2001 to $4,694 in 2003-2004, a Kerry campaign report said, a 28 percent increase after inflation.
Kerry, who visited the University of New Hampshire on Monday and has stops planned at colleges in New York and Pennsylvania later this week, has proposed $25 billion in fiscal aid to states and about $50 billion in college tax credits.
But Kerry also has said he might have to scale back some of his budget proposals to meet his goal of slashing the budget deficit in half within four years.